Heating, petchem demand fuel more US exports to Asia

March 9, 2021 By    

U.S. exports of propane have been increasing in recent months, primarily to countries in East Asia, as a result of cold weather and robust petrochemical feedstock consumption that drive demand in that region, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

LPG ship photo: think4photop/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Nearly half of all U.S. propane exports in recent months were shipped to Japan, China and South Korea. Photo: think4photop/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Between April 2020 and November 2020, about 58 percent of all U.S. propane exports went to markets in Asia. Nearly half of all U.S. propane exports in those months were shipped to three countries: Japan, China and South Korea.

Consumption of propane as petrochemical feedstock in East Asia has been supported by demand for propylene, a base chemical used to manufacture polypropylene, a polymer used to produce car interiors, packaging and personal protective equipment. According to China’s customs data, in 2020, Chinese exports of plastics and resins rose 15 percent in 2020, and the year-over-year increase reached an annual peak of 41 percent in November, the EIA reports. In 2020, China’s exports of pharmaceutical preparations and supplies increased 44 percent.

Other factors have also contributed to the growth in U.S. propane exports to East Asia. Weather-driven demand for propane as a heating fuel increased when the La Niña weather phenomenon resulted in colder winter weather in the region. The U.S. has also accounted for a greater share of propane imports to Asian countries because voluntary reductions in crude oil production in Saudi Arabia have led to less exports out of the Middle East, which has traditionally been a major supplier for markets in Asia, the EIA reports.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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